The Ascension of the Lord
In his homily for The Ascension of the Lord, Year B, Father Hanly reminds us that now we are Jesus’s hands, and we are his feet, and we are his voice when we go out into the world.
First Reading: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel: Mark 16:15-20
As you know, our people who are going to be commissioned today come from both sides of our parish. We have Christ the King, who are usually in the most beautiful chapel in Hong Kong, really, over there in St Paul’s hospital, behind the hospital, and we welcome them. And then, of course, we have our own St Margaret’s, and we welcome them as well.
We are gathered here today, once a year, because they belong to a very special ministry. Our men and women belong to the Ministry of the Word. And this ministry is very important. It is extremely important for the liturgy, all the masses and the para liturgies that we have in the parish. They are well trained, they are very industrious, and they have been serving this parish, some for a long time and some just for a few short months. And today we welcome them all.
Today, we are going to commission, in one way, and draw attention to the fact that the gospel is now preached not by Jesus, of course, and not by the Holy Spirit, and not by any ordinary human beings like ourselves, but they are specially singled out and trained for their ministry and they dedicate themselves to become instruments of the Holy Spirit, and instruments of the word of God, and instruments of healing, and instruments of salvation for all mankind.
This is a very high office in the church, and we pray for them that they will put it into practice with great zeal, with deep understanding, and with all the hard work that goes into becoming a preacher of the word.
It is unfortunate about the Resurrection that most people feel that when Jesus goes up into the sky and we see him no more, he stays there.
But we Christians know that Jesus has never really left us.
If the person of Jesus that the disciples grew to know so well enters into eternal life and glory, the coming of the Holy Spirit awakens them on Pentecost to know that the Risen Lord is with us.
He promised us, “I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
And when God promises he keeps his promises.
And so it is that Jesus the Risen Lord dwells among us and he has come to stay.
This has a very deep meaning for our readers and lectors, as well as for each and every one of us, because Jesus is silent, Jesus is quiet, Jesus is with us, but Jesus is heard, Jesus is worshipped, Jesus is loved, and we are the instruments of making this possible.
For we are his hands and we are his feet and we are his voice when we go out into the world.
And when we forgive each other and love each other and care for each other and reach out to each other, it is we who continue the mission of Jesus in the world.
And he indeed is with us. It is he who gives us the power, it is he who calls upon us, it is he who welcomes us to be his hands.
St Teresa of Avila has a very popular and a very nice saying that sums this all up when she writes:
“Christ has no body. Christ has no body now on this Earth but yours, no hands but yours. Your eyes are the eyes by which he looks upon the world with compassion. Yours are the feet by which he walks about doing good. Yours are the hands by which he blesses us now. All are yours, yours and yours.”
This is a great gift to all of us.
Sometimes we somehow feel that we just have to do good here and then we go up to Heaven and Jesus will welcome us and he will say to us, “Oh, come into my Father’s house.”
Sometimes we think that all we have to do is just fulfil the basic things of being a good person, a careful person, one who listens to the scriptures, tries to put into practice the things that Jesus has taught us.
But it’s one step further.
You, you are the ones who spread the word that he died for.
And he died on a cross that the world might know that God Himself has sent him. And He sends him with a message and the message is very simple: “All is forgiven.”
And who is to bring this message?
You and I. We are to say to the world, “All is forgiven. All is forgiven.”
It’s as simple as that.
All is forgiven and there is only his love. These are the two basic truths that we live by.
Is this important?
It is. Because if you do not forgive, Jesus does not come out of a box and forgive. Jesus is not running around making up for our failure. We are the ones now, we are the ones. It is his words and his feelings and his love and his caring that we are the instruments of.
And so, today, on this very special day, there is only one thing that all of us do as we commission these teachers, these people who will do the readings from the sacred scriptures, only one thing: learn to forgive and learn to love.
And then you, too, are one with Jesus, going through the whole world making life possible, making joy possible, making love possible, but most of all making us true disciples to walk with Jesus, who we worship but who we call our brother, and one with God, who we worship but call our Father, and finally one with ourselves, that we have meaning and purpose and value and know that we are here not for ourselves, we are here, as Jesus was, we are men and women sent, men and women sent for others.
And now we will begin this special very special blessing of our readers, because, each Sunday when they read to us, we must remember that it is Jesus’s heart that we hear, Jesus’s love that we hear, and we are his instruments.
And now we invite our readers to come forward to form a line before the altar …